Most likely every inventor has been in a situation where you’ve gone into one pitch and walked out with your idea feeling like a dud, then you go to the pitch next door and the response is completely different – the idea is suddenly alive and kicking once more.
For me that’s a wonderful example of serendipity – the right idea, the right person, the right company and the right time.
The right person is the bit that fascinates me the most, and when I say right, I don’t mean that the people are right or wrong – more that the right person is the one who’s brain miraculously goes to the same make-believe place yours has.
They’ve been pulled into your story but they are also evolving it, imagining the next steps, making it bigger and better. Their brain has somehow been fuelled with the exact stimulus that the idea needed to firstly be liked and secondly be improved on – it could be their life experiences, background, interests, loves, hates that ignites this spark – who knows, but it’s awesome when it happens!
Sharing ideas is 100% my favourite thing about being in this industry – even more so than creating the ideas. If more than one person gets the same spark, you could be onto a winner as hopefully, that’s the response that you’ll get from kids too.
That being said, the ups and downs can feel turbulent and knowing when to quit is really important in helping you conserve energy for the next creation.
A decade ago at Vivid, as a fresh-faced junior, I was lucky that access from the bottom to the top was direct. It was petrifying at first but this quickly taught me humility, and naturally you build a thick skin from having ideas criticised, pulled apart and rejected weekly (always fair and objective) from incredibly experienced people.
Through the years I’ve had to kill external creations, team’s creations, the top dog’s creations and my own creations, even after we’d invested time, resource, budget, a Far East trip to try and save it etc.
Taking physical products to market and creating IP is tough, it can be messy and often there are only a few reasons to say yes but a million reasons to say no. You’ve got to find someone that thinks that one of those few reasons to say yes is strong enough to void all the no’s.
I love the saying “knowing when to quit” because it’s about the “knowing when” but not actually about the quitting. As a general rule of thumb in knowing if I’m flogging a dead horse, I only quit on an idea if I’ve shown it to everyone I think it would be apt for and it was all passes and/or tepid responses, plus if there is a critical pattern forming in the feedback (e.g the theme isn’t inclusive enough or we’ve seen something similar and said no before).
Even if I do get some negative responses (blank faces/”I don’t get it” etc) then I keep on truckin’ until I’ve done the above – their feedback isn’t wrong, it just might not be right for the them, they truly might not get it or like it or it might be the wrong time.
So for self-preservation, I always lean back on these two commercial examples:
Jamie Oliver: The Naked Chef. His pilot episode sat with Channel 4 for 9 months before they came back with a response and rejected it. BBC signed it up after one week of watching the pilot. Millions watched the show and now Jamie works with Channel 4, the channel that rejected it – right company, wrong time maybe!
JK Rowling: Countless publishers said no to Potter with some strong rejection feedback but one eventually said yes. “I wasn’t going to give up until every single publisher turned me down, but I often feared that would happen” JK. We all know how that story goes…
There’s for sure a time and place to admit defeat that an idea really is trash but hey, an idea is just an idea until it’s shared so what’s to lose!
Share it with as many people as you can and maybe one will think it’s a treasure. And in the very worst case, you bury the idea (chuck in storage) and it might become a treasure again in a different guise at a different time.
Fi Murray is the creative director and founder of Making Things Studio. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org